The Once and Future Way to Run: NY Times Magazine Article by Christopher McDougall

Pete  crop NYC Quick post to alert you to a feature article in the New York Times Magazine by Born to Run author Christopher McDougall.

The article is titled “The Once and Future Way to Run,” and in the article Chris addresses a number of issues relating to running form and running shoes, and provides some interesting perspective on “why all running shoes get rave reviews.” I’m honored to have been interviewed for the article (and photographed – see above, I’m no cover model!), and I highly recommend that you give it a read – it will be interesting to see the response:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/magazine/running-christopher-mcdougall.html

A number of people have asked about a video demo of the 100 Ups exercise that Chris writes about – below is the video posted on the NY Times page where Chris demonstrates:

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Brian Martin says:

    Looks like a good drill the “100-up” will try it out and report back. I like the fact that the foot flattens and he touches down with the heel. Now I need to watch the video with the sound on!

  2. Pete, what do you think of the “high-knee” vs. lifting the foot off the ground using hamstrings? 

    • Pete Larson says:

      I don’t have strong feelings, and it will be somewhat related to speed. I think in general if you want to run faster, then propulsion through hip and knee extension plus plantarflexion of the foot are critical. Knee drive can help in forward propulsion, but for a recreational runner just trying to enjoy a run, approach may differ.
      Sent from my iPad

  3. What a great article. I’m a long-time reader of your blog, Pete, and I was pleasantly surprised to see your name on the NY Times article. You’ll be glad to know that you have fans as far away as Hong Kong!

  4. naturalrunningstore says:

    Awesome Pete!  We to roll on this and congrats for being recognized as one of our great running voices.  Funny how the 100 Up Drill and jumping rope have a ton of similarities.  I am not aware of anyone getting shin splints or fracturing bones when jumping rope.  It would seem pretty logical to apply those principles (good posture, land softly under center of mass) when moving forward.  But this is the running industry and logic isn’t always marketable.  Keep up the good work! Cheers-Patton

  5. Tom Davidson says:

    Nice article, thanks for including the link to the video. This looks like a worthwhile thing to incorporate into my winter training/indoors. I have seen my running improve greatly since starting to consider form and technique more this year. 

  6. McDougal, although great at dramatic writing, is a terrible runner. He
    is always going around offering up running advice but the guys technique
    is downright ugly. A slow and inefficient jogger, like McDougal, is not
    qualified to give out advice on “the lost technique of perfect
    running.” I do not disagree with minimalism, but McDougal’s logic is
    inconsistent at best, he has no place handing out running advice.

    The 100 up looks like a helpful training tool for runners who already
    understand what it takes to be an efficient runner, it also looks like a
    recipe for creating a mass of bad run/joggers. The main mistake most
    barefoot runners make is in having a circular motion going on directly
    underneath their center of mass, this is inefficient. Elite runners maintain
    a circular motion going on behind them, once the leg has come forward
    ahead of the center of mass inefficiency starts and a sloppy bouncy
    running technique, like that of McDougals, starts.

    McDougal needs to let other runners know that he is not a good runner,
    and that the advice that he is handing out will only get other runners
    to an equally poor level of running. He should also stop with the
    barefoot nonsense, I know that statement will not sit well with most of
    crowd on this blog, at some point running barefoot is just silly.
    Even the great Bikila would have opted for some shoes if they had some
    in his size. Most competitive runners can kick their shoes off and beat
    the pants of off the 5 fingers crowd, and all competitive runners
    recognize that in order to stay injury free, and to be competitive,
    shoes with padding are a HUGE benefit. That’s not to say that proper
    running technique and mastery is not important, they are essential.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Since when is speed a requirement for enjoying running? I’m sorry, but this response simply comes of as petty and elitist. And elite runners do land with the foot in front of their center of mass, they just tend to extend the hip more on the backside.
      Sent from my iPad

      • I apologize that my post comes across as elitist, I did a pretty poor job with it. After watching McDougals video I was admittedly perturbed and my post was essentially directed at McDougal himself, which is silly since he will never see it.

        I feel it is worth mentioning that the “100 up” is very common in the sport except that it is generally just a drill called “high knees” and it’s compliment is “butt kicks.” If runners new to the sport follow McDougals advice and practice high knees thinking that it is a recipe for mastering running technique they will be disappointed with the results.

        There are many people who have written books with great advice, people who have gone from couch potato to elite athlete and who have very valuable information to offer, it is my contention that McDougal is not one of them and that he should stop representing himself as a resource for running advice.

      • I am not saying that speed is a requirement to enjoying running
        or that there isn’t plenty of room in the sport for runners, joggers, and
        walkers alike. What I am saying is that McDougal is unqualified to make
        statements about “the one fool proof method of running” when he
        himself is such a terrible runner. I have read his book and it is full of
        inconsistencies and a lot of bad advice and direction on running. Even the Born
        to Run story itself and the portrayal and assessment of Jurek and other characters
        in the book is dramatized and inaccurate.

        I applaud McDougals efforts and success at raising the profile of minimalism in
        the sport. However, while McDougal is great at dramatic writing, he is not so
        great at running and he should really stop trying to represent himself as an
        authority.

        • Pete Larson says:

          You still seem to equate being a “terrible” runner with being slow. I ran a ridiculously hilly 50K with Chris McDougall in March – he wore huarache sandals, and he finished without issue. I don’t consider myself to be a better runner just because I finished ahead of him. Neither of us was even close to the winner in terms of time, but we both had a blast and aside from typical aches from a race that long, neither of us got hurt in the process – that’s what this is all about. Chris is not writing articles advising elites how they should train, he is writing to an audience of folks who just want to be able to enjoy running, just as we did on that day back in March.

          • I consider McDougall a terrible runner because his form is sloppy, which consequently is why he is a slow runner, but he goes around self promoting and and telling everyone that he has mastered some secret lost form of running. Hypocritically this is akin to what he bashes Dean for in his book.

            I don’t care at what speed someone runs or how they go about doing it, but when they start handing out advice to the masses about a “lost secret from the 1800′s to perfect running” which isn’t lost at all it’s just called high knees these days, to attain “fool proof perfect running” that person should know what they’re talking about. It follows that if someone knows what they’re talking about and they run enough miles in a week to complete a 50k race that they should be able to demonstrate running proficiency.

            I know a reasonable amount of information about basketball but I’m a pretty lousy player. If I wrote a book about how to become a great basketball player, and I represented my book as containing secret lost information from Michael Jordan himself, I sure hope that someone would call me out for being all talk and no walk. I especially hope that someone would voice up if a large number of people followed my advice and some of that advice could lead to inefficient technique and injury.

          • Pete Larson says:

            And on what do you base you analysis of Chris’ sloppy form? Have you watched him run in a slow motion video clip? If he is able to run as much as he wants for the reasons that matter to him without getting hurt, then I’d say his form is pretty darned good for his body.

  7. The McDougall article, while really interesting, raises a lot of questions. I feel gives off the impression that running with super proper form is easy, when the truth is that if you’ve been a heel striker your entire life, becoming a mid-foot or forefoot striker can be a very difficult thing to transition to. Also, as one of my friends who is a world-class ultra distance runner has noted, the 100-up drill has nothing to do with propelling yourself forward. Nonetheless, McDougall certainly starts an interesting discussion. Coincidentally, just the other day I wrote an article for Construction magazine that explores the current running boom and tries to understand why so many normal people are running marathons. Here’s the link:

    http://www.constructionlitmag….

    • Pete Larson says:

      Yes, it’s not easy – that was the point I tried to make when he quoted me about changing motor patterns. Sometimes hard to get all of your thoughts conveyed in an article though. It takes hard work to retool one’s stride.

  8. So when is someone going to put proper execution of this exercise on youtube?

  9. Awesome article!

  10. Hai N Tran says:

    I can’t seem to get the video to play. :(

  11. Brian Martin says:

    G’day Pete, Great job on the NYT article. Had a read this morning Melbourne time. Chris has done a lot to raise awareness about the importance of running form and this article is no exception. My only reservation is sometime there’s so many ideas and different voices that runners either get confused or race into trying out one aspect (like forefoot running) without thinking about the whole scheme of running. Anyway it’s a minor point in an otherwise entertaining read. Wouldn’t mind getting some more detail on the 100-up drill if you have it to hand! Cheers Brian

    • Pete Larson says:

      Chris and I have similar thoughts on a lot of things, but I agree with you that hard and fast positions can be problematic, and that there is more to stride than foot strike. In fact, I’m writing a book about it :)

      • I hope at some point you will discuss this topic more on you blog. I
        would be very interested learning more about your thinking on the other 
        elements of running stride. I’ve been trying for quite awhile now to
        convince people that foot strike is only one small aspect of running
        technique. Unfortunately, I find that most people aren’t ready to hear
        or discuss this topic.

        • Adam Klein says:

          Ken, you are hitting the point, foot strike is more like a side effect of all things that are happening with our body above – a good example is a weakness of our hips. Take a 8 hours overweight office worker and let him run along with Galen Rupp for example. There would be many differances but one very visible – range of motion of a thigh. Why is that? Uncomparable difference in force to weight ratio (plus different stretching). Attach a 3 kg weight to Galen’s knee and his running form wouldn’t be so nice.

          • I do think that a proper foot strike is the result of doing everything else correctly. I also think that all the elements of good running technique are trainable, and pretty much the same for everyone.

          • Pete Larson says:

            Take the shoes off the heavy runner and his form will start to look a lot more like Galen’s though. Barefoot runners have more form similarity to elites at slower speed than do traditionally shod runners.

        • Brian Martin says:

          Thanks for the mention Pete. Ken I agree, getting away from foot-strike only driven thinking is key.

        • Pete Larson says:

          You should check out Brian Martin’s blog – lots of good technique discussion.
          Sent from my iPad

  12. Robert Osfield says:

    The story behind 100-up is as interesting as the idea that such a simple as running on the spot with high knee lift, good posture and balance would help running form. 

    Given  W. G. George back in the early last century was able to train using this exercise and break world records, that while not close to current records are still very respectable times that few runners will match – it looks like this exercise is able to build strength and surprisingly aerobic performance. 

    Building strength in the foot and lower leg is part of adapting to landing on the forefoot/midfoot and the 100-up will likely be a good exercise for this.  Since you it’s pretty hard to do this drill and land on your heel I suspect that doing it regularly will help with make a forefoot/midfoot automatic for those struggling to move away from a heel strike.

    It’d be interesting to try out the 100-up to see how well it builds strength and balance.  Since winter weather is starting to close in here the idea of having a drill that one can do in the house to keep fit is nice.

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